'Gay Propaganda Ban' No Human Rights Infringement, Russian FM Says
The ban on "gay propaganda" among minors, currently under review in Russian legislature, does not infringe on human rights – unlike "gay propaganda" itself, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
"We're not discriminating against anyone, we just don't want reverse discrimination, when one group of citizens gets the right to aggressively impose their values, unsupported by most of the population, especially on children," Lavrov said in Moscow, as cited by RIA Novosti.
He spoke after his Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans urged the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, to drop the controversial bill on gay propaganda because it may violate international agreements on human rights.
"We don't have a single global or pan-European obligation to allow gay propaganda," Lavrov replied, speaking at a press conference after a meeting with Timmermans.
Russia had fulfilled all of its humanitarian obligations regarding same-sex relations when it decriminalized male homosexual contact in 1993, the Russian diplomat said.
Instead of campaigning for Russian gays, Europe should deal with flagrant rights violations on its own turf, most notably the presence of "non-citizens" in Estonia and Latvia who were denied citizenship after these countries proclaimed independence from the Soviet Union, Lavrov added.
The Duma voted 388 to one in support of the "gay propaganda" ban in the first of three required readings in late January.
Several dozen opponents and supporters of the bill marked the occasion with violent clashes outside the Duma building in central Moscow. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized the bill after the first reading, saying it could infringe on human rights.
Russian lawmakers are currently working on a legal definition of "gay propaganda" ahead of the crucial second reading, which would not take place before late May.
The ban in its current form envisages fines of 4,000 to 500,000 rubles ($130 to $16,500) for individuals and organizations trying to convince minors of the benefits of same-sex relations.
Eleven of 83 Russian regions have installed similar bans since 2006; many of them also cover bisexual and transsexual relations, which are not part of the federal bill. The list of regions includes St. Petersburg, where conservative activists unsuccessfully sued pop star Madonna last year for "gay propaganda" over her speaking out in support of the city's gays during a show in August.
A poll by state-run VTsIOM last April showed that 94 percent of Russians have never encountered gay propaganda, but 86 percent support a ban on it. The nationwide poll covered 1,600 respondents and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Russian authorities have never sanctioned a gay pride rally, though LGBT activists have been applying for permits in Moscow since 2006. Last May, the St. Petersburg authorities permitted a rally against homophobia, but its participants were attacked by dozens of masked thugs, all of whom evaded arrest.